Convergence on Common Ground: MRAs, Memes and Transcultural Contexts of Digital Misogyny
Establishing a global theory of digital misogyny requires exploring the contexts that generate misogynistic content online. The Western men’s rights activist, or MRA, uses digital contexts to his advantage, often producing rapid-fire misogyny in the form of memes. These memes are intended to humorously spread awareness about what MRAs feel are the most pressing problems concerning men today—they operate as a means of ideological summary and casual activism. They are misogynistic, generalized abstractions of men’s rights ideology, oversimplified for wider appeal. The practice of meme-as-activism has fragmented across the internet with myriad interpretations to fit different cultural narratives. The rhetorical approach to digital activism in the form of memes finds an uncanny parallel in the Indian Men’s Rights Association. Indian MRAs seem primarily concerned with and motivated by what they perceive to be anti-men legislation, namely Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, which is intended to prevent dowry harassment. 498A is a sore spot for some Indian men, and they organize in digital spaces to voice their issues. In these digital spaces, memes are a popular method of communicating both information and rhetorical bias. Drawing cultural context from Romit Chowdhury’s exploration of the conditions under which Indian men’s rights groups emerged (Indian Journal of Gender Studies, 27–53, 2014a) and Jean Chapman’s research on dowry law and violence in India (Victims of Violence in Indian Families: Where Misogyny and Misandry Meet, 2014–2015), this chapter explores the differences in motivation for both Indian and Western MRAs through cultural contextualization, critical examination of their digital rhetoric and illustration in the form of screencaps and memes within the text. By analysing a variety of examples gathered from MRA sites in Western countries and India (particularly American site AVoiceForMen.com and Indian site MensRightsAssociation.org), I aim to provide a specific understanding of these manifestations of digital misogyny and where they overlap. Such an understanding has broader implications for academic study of cyber misogyny, digital feminism and intersectional activism, and this research suggests a theory of online misogyny on a global scale by connecting different cultural expressions of misogyny through the common medium of digital meme.
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